When some of America's hottest new restaurants, like Megu in Manhattan, want to create an impressive sake list, they turn to Ohio-born sake expert John Gauntner. In addition to writing a sake column for a Japanese newspaper, the Japan-based Gauntner has authored three books on the subject and maintains a Web site (sake-world.com). Here, he answers some basic questions:
What is sake, exactly?
It's an alcoholic drink brewed from rice, and it has the highest naturally occurring alcohol content of any brewed beverage. It's not a beer, as some insist, even though it's made from a grain. And it's not a rice wine, either.